Saturday, September 29, 2012
The Paramount logo and Mt. Ben Lomond: facts and myths
"Outtakes" movie column
Recently, a local TV show attempted to discover whether the voice of God in "The Ten Commandments" was dubbed by a Utah man. It seems the story has been circulating in the state for years, yet no one has been able to provide any evidence to establish the myth as fact or fiction. The man in question is dead, and all that remains is hearsay.
Well, I love a good story -- especially when it concerns the movies. One I've heard repeatedly since I took over the movie beat at this newspaper concerns Ogden's connection to the Paramount Pictures trademark. People keep telling me that the logo -- a mountain peak circled by stars -- was patterned after Ben Lomond Peak.
These aren't exactly crackpots, mind you. People at the National Western Film Festival love to tell the story, and a lot of folks have traced Paramount's business history (rather inaccurately in most instances) in support of the Ben Lomond connection. Why, even Gedde Watanabe -- the Ogden native who's gone on to act in films -- said he heard the story from a crew member while starring in "Gung Ho" (a Paramount film).
Still, the most persuasive argument for the theory came from a completely independent source. David Vogel, the producer of "Three O'Clock High" (the film shot at Ogden High School last fall), remarked that while they were filming on the school's roof one afternoon he happened to look northward to the mountains.
"We were setting up the shot and as I looked at the mountains off in the background I said to Phil (Joanou, the director), 'Why do I get the feeling that we're shooting the Paramount logo here?' It (the mountain) really does look like it."
Naturally, this is all pretty encouraging for Ogdenites who have believed the story of the Paramount-Ben Lomond relationship. But at the risk of being a wet blanket, there isn't exactly a preponderance of evidence either to support or discount the story.
A call to Carol Ames, who works for Paramount Pictures in the publicity department in Los Angeles, produced little information. Even though she had recently written an article on the history of the trademark for the January/February issue of Paramount News, the company newstetter, she came up with little on the Utah connection.
"I talked with a lot of people in the company," Ames said, "but the nearest I could come was that W.W. Hodkinson (the company's founder) had been a movie exhibitor in Utah at one time (before the formation of Paramount)."
According to Ames, Hodkinson was on his way to a meeting with Adolph Zukor -- hoping to sign a deal for distribution of that director's "Famous Players in Famous Plays" motion pictures -- in 1914, when he conceived the company's name. While walking down the street in New York, Hodkinson reportedly passed a building bearing the name "Paramount," which he liked enough to pilfer, and during the meeting with Zukor, Hodkinson sketched the mountain logo.
The trademark has remained with the company ever since, even though Hodkinson was forced out two years later by Zukor and Jesse L. Lasky.
"The mountain in the logo could have been a memory from his time in Utah," Ames said. "But I didn't find anything in my research to support that. Sorry."
Unable to get satisfaction at the corporate offices, I turned to Van Summerill, a local film and movie theater aficionado who, among other things, has been at the forefront of the effort to save the Egyptian Theater. Summerill said he has reason to believe that Hodkinson had some sort of involvement with the Ogden Theater, demolished long ago.
Summerill came up with a short article from the Dec. 15, 1986, issue of the entertainment industry trade paper Variety which confirms Ames' account of the Zukor meeting and the name and logo design. It also states that Hodkinson opened "the first film exchange and theater in Ogden in 1907 and started the W.W. Hodkinson Co. distribution organization in Utah for independent filmmakers in 1917."
The article claims that Hodkinson, who died in June 1971, based the first sketch of the mountain on his memories of "the Wasatch Range in his native Utah," although no source for the information is mentioned. Summerill also located a short article from a Salt Lake City newspaper, circa 1972, that claimed the Paramount logo was designed jointly by Zukor and Cecil B. DeMille, with no reference to Hodkinson. The article claims the mountain was somewhere "between Ogden and Salt Lake City."
So, like the Utah voice of God connection to "The Ten Commandments," it appears that we may never know for sure whether Hodkinson based his Paramount logo on Ben Lomond. So I'll sit the fence on this one, unless someone who's been around Ogden for a long, long time can come up with more conclusive evidence.
May 1, 1987:
The bell has sounded for Round 2 of the Paramount Pictures logo saga, and I'll even throw in a word or two about the voice of God in "The Ten Commandments."
After my last column, which attempted to trace the origin of the Paramount Pictures mountain logo" I got calls, letters and a tongue-in-cheek (I hope) chastisement from my managing editor. By way of information, I wrote that the logo was designed by a man named W.W. Hodkinson in 1914 during a meeting in New York City. Hodkinson had been in the movie exhibition business in Ogden before that. My sources for the information were Paramount's own historians and public relations people, and the show biz trade paper, Variety.
After the column's publication, Howard Noel, who works as public relations spokesman for Weber State College, called to say he had been told by a Paramount employee several years ago the logo was indeed based on Ben Lomond Peak -- in Scotland, not Utah.
But the story I got more often, from several different sources, had a connection with this very newspaper and its former publisher, A.L. Glasmann, who was also involved in the motion picture exhibition business, running the Paramount, Orpheum and Alhambra Theaters, among others.
Steven Nye, who worked in advertising at the Standard-Examiner, told about the time Glasmann invited him to sit in on a meeting with Paramount studio executives in town on business. Afterward, the small group of men left the newspaper offices, then on Kiesel Avenue, and made the short walk to the Paramount Theater.
Midway to the theater, Nye said, the publisher locked arms with him and pointed to the mountain peak. That's the mountain in the Paramount logo, Nye quoted Glasmann as saying. The publisher then proceeded to explain that another studio executive had visited Ogden years before and, while walking down Washington Boulevard with Glasmann one evening, was struck by the beauty of the mountain as the sun was setting to the west. It was decided instantly that Ben Lomond would be serve as the model for the studio logo.
Another detail was added to the same story by Murray Moler, the former associate editor at the Standard-Examiner. He said Glasmann and the executive, Jesse L. Lasky (who along with Adolph Zukor forced Hodkinson out of the studio in 1916), immediately, rushed into a restaurant after looking the mountain over and sketched the logo on a napkin, stripping away the mountains on either side of Ben Lomond. Lasky later requested a photograph of the peak and Glasmann soon obliged by sending one off to Hollywood.
Although this is a good story, it doesn't line up -- at all, really -- with Paramount's own history or previous researchers' accounts of the logo's origin. Nowhere to be found in the stories that put Glasmann in the middle of the design is the mention of Hodkinson, who originally designed the logo in 1914.
Still, that doesn't invalidate the Glasmann story. The logo bas undergone several redesigns between 1914 and the present 75th anniversary computer-created logo, including a major redesign in 1917 which made the mountain more symmetrical and surrounded it with billowing clouds. It could be that Lasky was impressed by the peak during a visit to Ogden and altered the logo's design at that time, or in 1927, when the logo was changed slightly again. Glasmann took over the reins of the paper in 1915, and was a good friend of Lasky's at the time.
• Last week's column also sparked a couple of responses to the mention I made of the minicontroversy over who actually performed the voice of God in "The Ten Commandments."
Marian Budge, of Ogden, sent me a clipping of an obituary from -- the Deseret News dated July 17, 1984, which stated that a man named Delos Jewkes, a former character actor and bass vocalist from Utah, was the voice of God in the film. Budge said when Jewkes spoke in the Ogden 73rd Ward, about a year before he died at age 89, his voice was still very distinctive.
On the opposing side was Howard Noel. He said that several years ago, during a visit to WSC, Charlton Heston -- who played Moses in the movie -- remarked at length as to who performed the voice of God.
"He said it was his voice," Noel said. "He said they had a lot of trouble getting it right until he suggested to (director Cecil B.) DeMille that they (record) his voice and slow it down a little."